The cut and run party

Mona Charen

11/18/2005 12:05:00 AM - Mona Charen

True to their heritage in foreign policy, 40 out of 45 Democratic senators voted last week to demand a timetable for withdrawal of American forces from Iraq. As in every conflict since Vietnam, Democrats are hoping not to succeed but to skedaddle.

 Imagine if the Democrats held a majority in the Congress. The cut and run impulse -- can you call it anything else? -- would become law. Well, the Democrats protest, we cannot condone this war for another minute because we were deceived into supporting it in the first place.

 We'll return to that risible claim in a moment. But first let's assume for the sake of argument that it is true. Democrats were given faulty intelligence by President Bush and voted for the war based entirely on those misleading representations. Okay. But now we are in Iraq. The full prestige and credibility of the United States is on the line. Iraq has been liberated from Saddam, yet remains under assault from jihadists, dispossessed Tikritis, and a variety of other assassins and terrorists. Al Qaeda's ringleader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, maintains a network of suicide bombers and saboteurs who blow our people up when they can and cut off hostages' heads when they require added amusement.

 If we were to withdraw in the face of this onslaught, the message to al Qaeda and to the world would be obvious: defeat. Osama bin Laden took credit for chasing the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan and gloated that his forces had frightened the U.S. out of Somalia. How much more decisive would it appear to the jihadists if they were able to chase the U.S. out of Iraq? And not just to them, but to any potential adversary anywhere on the globe? Don't Democrats ever consider these matters? If they do not, can they really be considered mature or responsible?

 Were Democrats tricked into supporting the Iraq War? The New York Times, lead soloist in the left-wing chorus, claims that Democrats were deceived because the president's daily brief (PDB) was so much more comprehensive than the intelligence provided to the Congress in the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE). A number of Democratic senators have made the same claim, and it seems plausible on the surface as everyone knows that the president gets the very best intelligence available. But the bipartisan Robb/Silberman commission reported that the intelligence in the PDB was, if anything, more alarmist than that in the NIE. In other words, if the NIE said, "Saddam may be reconstituting his nuclear weapons program," the PDB would have said, "Saddam is almost certainly reconstituting his nuclear program." So if the Congress had seen the exact same reports the president saw, it would only have strengthened, not weakened, the case for war.

 Nor did the commission find any evidence that intelligence was manipulated, distorted, or, as the left-wing Brits alleged against Tony Blair, "sexed up." The report noted that the intelligence had proved faulty, but then added, "These errors stem from poor tradecraft and poor management. The commission found no evidence of political pressure to influence the intelligence community's pre-war assessments of Iraq's weapons programs." Poor tradecraft? Could that possibly mean that the CIA screwed up royally? Why do the liberals avoid this obvious conclusion and substitute fantasies of Bush lies and distortion?

 The Clinton administration was as adamant that Saddam had WMDs as the Bush administration. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright declared in 1998 that "what happens there matters a great deal here. For the risk that the leaders of a rogue state will use nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons against us or our allies is the greatest security threat we face." [Emphasis added.] Liberals acknowledge the Clinton position but hasten to remind us that "Clinton didn't go to war." No. Because the Democrats are the party of talk, endless negotiations and U.N. resolutions. Even when faced with potentially catastrophic threats, they will not act militarily.

 And now, in the midst of a grave conflict, they stoop to any lie to discredit a president who did not lack the courage to act.